WV-Gov: Ireland Will Run

One of the few high-profile names in West Virginia GOP circles is throwing her hat in the ring for the governor’s race — whenever that may happen:

Former Secretary of State Betty Ireland announced Thursday that she will file Pre-Candidacy papers to run for the office, which will allow her to raise money for her campaign.

Ireland says she will file two forms: one for a 2011 special election year, and another for the 2012 regularly scheduled governor’s race. This will allow her to begin raising monies for a special governor’s race in 2011 if there is one, or for a 2012 race. Ireland is a Republican.

Ireland joins state Sen. Clarke Barnes, the only other Republican who has committed to this race so far. It remains to be seen if the biggest fish in the GOP wading pool — Rep. Shelley Moore Capito — will take the plunge, as well.

2010 Politicos of the Year

So, everyone else does lists at the end of the year. Why shouldn’t we? Here following, my picks for the 2010 Politicos of the year (in reverse chronological order).  

10. Suzana Martinez – NM-Gov

Martinez was a unknown district attorney when she took on Lt. Governor Dina Denish in a state that had not only overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008 but elected an all Democratic slate to Congress. She succesfully tied Denish into scandal-ridden outgoing governor Bill Richardson and won. The fact she did so in such a Democratic state makes her acheivement marginally more impressive than the Republicans other woman-minority governor-elect, Nikki Haley.

9. Lisa Murkowski – AK-SEN

Ran won of the worst primary campaigns in history, followed by the first successful write in campaign in 50 years. The kudos she deserves for the later far outweigh the mocking she deserves for the former.

8. Jerry Brown – CA-Gov

The former and future governor of California survived the most expensive attack campaign in American history. Almost without breaking a sweat.

7. Kamala Harris – CA-AG

A rising star, and the first woman to win this traditionally conservative law and order position. It’s no accident she’s being compared to Obama.

6. Rick Snyder – MI-Gov

“One tough nerd” managed to beat out three better known candidates in the Republican primary and crush his Democratic opponent in a state that gave Obama a landside win. Good luck with governing it.

5. Rick Scott – FL-Gov

Just as Time Magazine once picked the Ayatollah Khoemeni as “Man of the Year” we have to put Scott up there as a politician of the year. He beat out Florida’s AG for the nomination, and went on to defeat the much respected CFO of the state, despite being acclaimed as the “Madoff of Medicare,” among other titles.

4. Pete Sessions – R-Texas

It’s hard to single out one candidate in the Republican sweep of the House races this year, although some (Bob Dold? Chip Cravaack? Bill Flores) stand out. So, I’m putting Pete Sessions as a placeholder for everyone, because despite criticism about the NRCC’s tepid fundraising he managed to do better than either the RGA or the NRSC, partially through being very agressive about targeting races. Of course, we’ll see how he does in 2012, when the landscape may not be as promising.

3. Marco Rubio – FL-SEN

Almost everyone (except Kos) was declaring Rubio dead in the water when Charlie Crist released his first fundraising totals after announcing for Senate in 2009. Now, it’s Charlie Crist who is dead in the water, and Marco Rubio who is the potential Republican presidential candidate.

2. Harry Reid – NV-SEN

Here’s how much respect I have for Harry Reid as a politician: I think he would have beaten any of his opponents for Senate in 2010. He’s that good – his commercials were some of the best of the cycle.

1. Scott Brown – MA-SEN

It’s hard to believe that at the beginning of the year, it was assumed Martha Coakley, as Steve Singiser put it, “is likely to be the first woman elected to that chamber from the State of Massachusetts.” Even after all that’s happened since Brown’s victory, it’s hard to come up with a more shocking political result in a long time (the only one I can come up with is Harris Wofford’s win over Richard Thornburgh way back in 1991). What’s more, at this writing, Brown seems to be holding on to his popularity. Because Brown became the early face of the Republican wave that would sweep most strongly in the House elections, but also in the Senate, Governor and all the way down to the state legislatures, I think he should be 2010’s Politico of the Year.


1. Christine O’Donnell

Oh I hope she goes to jail. I really do. Even then, she probably won’t shut up. But I do have to say: thank you Erik Erickson and all the Tea Party organizations who gave us Dems a freebie in Delaware this year.

2. Joe Miller

Would have probably one a place as one of the best had he maintained his momentum after the primary. Instead, he lost to a write-in. Ultamite choke.

Del Ali

The head of polling organization Research 2000 is not a politician, but he was involved enough in politics that he makes my worst list for this year. Hope Kos wins his lawsuit.

Alan Grayson

Republicans should send a big thanks to Grayson for taking so much cash from well meaning progressives to fund an 18 point loss – one of the worst of any incumbent this cycle.

Blanche Lincoln, Paul Hodes (tie)

I guess you can give Lincoln credit for beating Bill Halter in the primary, but considering she was chairman of a major committee (Agriculture) in the Senate, shouldn’t she have been able to keep this race closer than a 22 point spread? As for Hodes, remember back in 2008 when Kos told us Hodes would finish off Judd Gregg (or whoever took Gregg’s place) in 2010? Yeah, well Hodes lost by almost 24 points. That was worse than Lee Fisher, or almost anyone else in a supposedly competitive race.  

SSP Daily Digest: 12/30

AK-Sen: With the book about to close on 2010, so too is the last outstanding race of 2010, the Alaska Senate race. Today the state is planning to certify Lisa Murkowski as winner of the race, including hand-delivering the certification papers to Washington DC so there won’t be any possible obstacles to Murkowski’s swearing-in next week (and ensuing temporary loss of state clout). This, of course, follows a legal one-two punch to Joe Miller’s hopes: last week’s loss at the Alaska Supreme Court, which upheld the trial court’s decision that the write-in votes for Murkowski were properly counted, and then this week’s ruling by a federal district court judge dismissing his related federal suit and lifting the hold on the race’s certification. Miller will not stand in the way of the certification, although he says he is still considering whether to continue litigating the matter (which, if he did, would feature the 9th Circuit as the next stop).

The most ironic part of the whole tale is that the Tea Party Express, in their ill-advised RINO hunt, seem to have only succeeded in making Murkowski into more of a free agent. If you’ve noticed that Murkowski seems to be toeing the GOP line less since winning the election without running under the GOP banner, you’re not alone: she was the only Senate GOPer to vote with the Dems on all four big action items during the lame duck session (the tax compromise, DADT repeal, START, and the DREAM Act).

DE-Sen: SSP isn’t about re-litigating old elections, but this is indeed relevant because Christine O’Donnell, looking to capitalize on her newfound celebrity, may yet be a fourth-time candidate for the Senate against Tom Carper in the future. That fourth run might be more difficult, though, if she’s in prison… perhaps possible as it seems like the federal government has decided it’s had enough of her once-every-two-years grifting tours and is now criminally investigating her use of campaign funds for personal purposes during her 2010 campaign. Anyway, she put out a truly epic statement today on the matter that ought to have you reaching for your copy of the DSM, so laden with paranoia and delusions of grandeur it is.

MA-Sen: While everyone seems to be wondering which U.S. Rep. will step into the gap if nobody named Kennedy runs for the Senate, there’s always the outside possibility that someone with a business background and lots of his own money tries to move to the head of the pack in the Bay State. Robert Pozen may fit that bill, and he’s apparently been talking to party insiders about the possibility. The investment banker-turned-Harvard Business professor has some liabilities, though: he served briefly in Mitt Romney’s cabinet, which may help his bipartisan bona fides but could be poison in a primary, and his personality has been described as [John] “Silberesque,” which would just be all-purpose poison.

MI-Sen: If the NRSC ever had any interest in Tim Leuliette as their Senate candidate in Michigan, that probably evaporated this week. The auto-parts magnate just said that he’s not comfortable with self-funding his campaign and wouldn’t put much of his “large fortune” into a run. Considering that that was the main (if not only) selling point for a candidacy from an otherwise unknown political newcomer, that should pretty much be end-of-story.

MO-Sen, MO-Gov: A poll from Republican pollster Wilson Research (commissioned by consulting firm Axiom Strategies) has (big surprise) good news for Republicans in it, most notably Jim Talent. The ex-Sen. has a significant lead in a rematch against Claire McCaskill, ahead 51-40. Talent seems to have a big electability edge over Sarah Steelman, who’s tied 44-44 with McCaskill. McCaskill’s approvals are 48/45. They also look at the Governor’s race, finding a more competitive race than PPP did but not the lead that a Peter Kinder internal showed. They find Dem incumbent Jay Nixon leading Kinder 45-42, with Nixon’s approvals at 52%. Worth noting: the poll’s a little stale, taken Dec. 1-2.

ND-Sen: It’s starting to look like Kent Conrad will face some serious opposition from Republicans this cycle (assuming the 62-year-old runs for re-election), although it’s not clear exactly from whom. Perhaps the heaviest-hitter available, the state’s ex-Gov. and the former Bush administration Agriculture Secretary, Ed Schafer, has just ruled it out. For now, the likeliest-sounding one right now seems to be Brian Kalk, one of the state’s three Public Service Commissioners, a statewide elected position. Kalk says he’s giving it “serious thought,” which contrasts with oft-mentioned AG Wayne Stenehjem’s statement that he doesn’t have “any plans” (although not closing “any doors” either) and with newly-promoted Gov. Jack Dalrymple, for whom it’s the “last thing” on his mind.

NE-Sen (pdf): In case you weren’t sure whether or not Ben Nelson’s in trouble for 2012, um, yes, he’s in trouble. Republican pollster Magellan is out with a poll finding Nelson with an overall 29/59 re-elect, and trailing GOP AG Jon Bruning 52-38. He’s also trailing state Treasurer Don Stenberg (not yet a candidate, but sounding likely to run as well) 46-40. Hopefully we’ll get a look from PPP at this one soon for confirmation. It seems like the Dems are already treating Bruning as a serious threat, though, with the state party trying to throw obstacles in his path by filing FEC and IRS complaints against Bruning over shoddy campaign-committee setup.

VA-Sen: So apparently all you have to do is append “Tea Party Activist” to your job description, and all of a sudden you’re magically promoted from Some Dude to Very Serious Candidate Worthy of National Media Attention. Or at least that’s the case with the campaign announcement from Jamie Radtke, head of the Judean People’s Front People’s Front of Judea Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots, whose main claim to fame seems to be organizing a gathering of 3,000 ‘baggers in Richmond. At any rate, Radtke is the first actually announced GOP candidate. Meanwhile, Jim Webb seems to be moving closer to making a decision on whether to run for re-election (though no clues on how he feels), saying he’ll sort it out over the holiday break and make an announcement in the first quarter of 2011.

IN-Gov: This comes as a surprise, since there had been a lot of buzz about her as the nominee, with increasing moves from Rep. Mike Pence toward a presidential run instead. But Becky Skillman, Indiana’s Lt. Governor, recently announced that she wouldn’t run for Governor in 2012, citing “minor health issues.” Does this make likelier a Pence gubernatorial run, now that he’d have an easy stroll to the nomination? And if Pence doesn’t run, that seems to point to a truly wide open field, as no one seems to have contemplated a GOP field that didn’t include Pence or Skillman. Who else might step up? (I hear Mike Sodrel may still be looking for a job…)

NC-Gov: Rounding out the troika of Republican polls showing Dem incumbents in trouble is one from North Carolina from Civitas, who have coordinated with a variety of pollsters and this time went straight to the big daddy of GOP pollsters, POS. The poll finds GOP former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory cruising in a rematch against Dem incumbent Bev Perdue, who never really seemed to gain her footing after a narrow 2008 win: he leads her 51-36 (with Perdue getting only 64% among Democrats).

WA-Gov: Two interesting developments mean this race isn’t as open-and-shut as I’d thought. One is that there’s increasing buzz linking Dow Constantine, just elected in 2009 as King County Executive, to the governor’s race. I’ve regarded Constantine (who’s 47) as a very likely Governor starting in 2020, but with Dems seeming a little edgy that none of their biggest-name candidates (Rep. Jay Inslee, whose WA-01 is centered in suburban Snohomish Co., Snohomish Co. Exec Aaron Reardon, Spokane-based state Sen. majority leader Lisa Brown) are from their stronghold of King County while likely GOP candidate Rob McKenna is, there might be some pressure on Constantine to move up his timetable. (It’s worth noting that Gary Locke became Gov. in 1996 after three years as King Co. Executive.) The other develompent is that Chris Gregoire isn’t categorically ruling out an attempt at a third term, which she’s legally entitled to do but Just Isn’t Done. (Although she might point out that the last time it was tried, 1972, Dan Evans was successfully re-elected… in fact, the last time a Republican was re-elected Governor in Washington.) She registered as a 2012 candidate with the Public Disclosure Commission, in order to “keep her options open.” (UPDATE: Big h/t to meekermariner, who points out in comments that this Gregoire article is nearly two years old, leaving me to wonder why Politico was linking to it with such enthusiasm. At any rate, the Gregoire committee remains open today, although that in itself isn’t much of a suggestion that a third term may be in the offing.)

WV-Gov: This week was the deadline for filing briefs for the lawsuit that’s attempting to move up the special election to replace Joe Manchin up to 2011. We still don’t have an answer to when it will happen, but at least we know who’s on what side in the case: the state’s major unions (including the AFL-CIO and WVEA) want it sooner, and so does likely candidate and Dem state House speaker Rick Thompson. State Auditor Glen Gainer supports the expedited election too, while SoS Natalie Tennant (another possible Dem candidate) has basically punted on the issue. And if you’re wondering about Joe Manchin’s decision to duck DADT and DREAM Act votes in order to enjoy family holiday festivities, it seems like it wasn’t, first and foremost, a self-protecting profile in cowardice. With Manchin having survived probably his toughest challenge, he’s more interested now in clearing the way for ally and acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, and not interested in provoking a social issues-based civil war within the state Dem party that could undermine Tomblin’s shot at getting elected to a full term.

OH-01: Guess who’s sounding like he’s gearing up for a rematch? Steve Driehaus, in an interview with the Cincinnati paper, took a variety of potshots at Steve Chabot, calling him a Boehner “follower” and saying he shouldn’t “sit too easy.” Driehaus has previously said he’s “open” to another attempt. (This is Cincinnati-based district is notorious for steep dropoff in African-American voting in off-years, so if any time would be the right time for Driehaus to try again, 2012 would be it.)

LA-St. House: There was a long period of threatening and flirting, but now it’s official: state Rep. Noble Ellington switched to the Republican Party, formally flipping control of the state’s lower legislative chamber to the GOP for the first time since Reconstruction. Functionally, it may not make much perceptible difference, since there was already a Republican speaker, and many Dems were already quite conservative.

NY-St. Sen.: Looks like the end of the line in one other outstanding race (which ultimately had the balance of the New York state Senate in play): the state’s Court of Appeals said no thanks to incumbent Dem Craig Johnson’s appeal of a lower court decision that said there didn’t need to be a hand recount of machine votes in New York’s 7th District. GOPer Jack Martins had been declared the winner in the race by several hundred votes, handing the state Senate back to the GOP by a 32-30 margin.

PA-St. Sen.: Pennsylvania’s state Senate has been even more stubbornly Republican over the years than New York’s, and it looks like the Dems are going to have play a bit more defense there in an upcoming special election. Democratic minority whip Michael O’Pake (the state’s longest-serving legislator) died several days ago at age 70, leaving a vacancy in SD-11 that will need to be filled by special election at some point between March and May (date TBD). On paper, this looks like the kind of district that would be a major test case for whether the Dems are going to continue their run of bad luck in the Keystone State from the 2010 election: while it works out to about D+4 (going 59/40 for Barack Obama and 51/48 for John Kerry), it also gave 55% of the vote to Tom Corbett and 50.6% to Pat Toomey this year. However, this may all boil down to bench strength in a traditionally-Dem district (centered on the blue-collar city of Reading, although made purple by inclusion of its suburbs, too): insiders from both parties are treating Democratic former Berks Co. Commissioner Judy Schwank as “prohibitive favorite.”

Approvals: PPP does us the favor of consolidating all their year-end Senate approval ratings and gubernatorial approvals in one (or two, really) places. In the Senate, the most popular Senator overall, in addition to most popular one up in 2012, is Amy Klobuchar (59/29); while outgoing Roland Burris is the overall goat, Joe Lieberman is in worst shape of anyone up in 2012 (33/54). Among the few governors facing 2012 re-election, Jack Markell is tops at 50/32 (with Jay Nixon not far behind at 44/30), while Chris Gregoire fares the worst, in case she actually runs (although this might dissuade her sudden interest in a third term); her 40/53 is actually a worse spread than Bev Perdue’s 35/44.

Redistricting: The Fix has a good piece on redistricting out, that should pretty much serve as the last word on why GOP purely-redistricting-related House seat gains are likely to be limited to the single digits for 2012: thanks to their 2010 overperformance, they’re thoroughly maxed out in the big four prizes where they have total control (Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania). That’s compounded by, in Florida, the new Fair Districts initiative, and in Texas, the need to create at least two more VRA districts while still protecting Blake Farenthold. Also, here’s one other redistricting implication that’s gotten totally overlooked in all the last few weeks’ discussion: although California didn’t lose or gain a seat, there’s been enough population shift within the state (thanks to stagnation in the Bay Area and rapid growth in the Inland Empire) that the net result will be the moving of most of one district from NoCal to SoCal. It’ll be interesting to see whether the new independent commission is able to do that in a way that lightly shifts boundaries southwards and protects the jobs of all 53 incumbents, or if someone from the north actually gets turfed out and an effectively new seat opens up in the south.

Chicago mayor: A lot has happened in the Chicago mayoral race since we last checked: first, Rahm Emanuel cleared the first hurdle in ascertaining that he is, indeed, a Chicago resident and not a Kenyan (although there will be inevitable courtroom appeals for weeks to come, with opponents willing to go to the state Supreme Court). The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners last week rejected claims that Emanuel had abandoned his Chicago residency when he went to work in the White House. Also, we’ve seen two of Emanuel’s erstwhile opponents drop out of the race, narrowing the number of African-American candidates but still leaving that part of the field split between Danny Davis (last seen publicly urging Bill Clinton against coming to Chicago to campaign for Emanuel) and Carol Mosely Braun. State Sen. James Meeks dropped out, saying he didn’t want to further split the black vote, and Roland Burris also withdrew, via press release, from the race (although it’s unclear whether he ever really was in the race, since he never made any public appearances). Finally, we got another poll of the race from We Ask America, which may be most noteworthy for showing Gerry Chico in position to make the runoff. They find Emanuel at 44, Chico at 12, Braun at 8, Davis at 7, Miguel Del Valle at 6, and Meeks at 4.

A 2012 Sneak Peek: U.S. Senate Edition


Here’s the good news for Democrats as I unveil my very first sneak peek at the 2012 U.S. Senate races – I’m not quite ready to project “Shellacking Part Deux.” In fact, as it stands, I only feel comfortable in predicting a single Democrat to Republican flip. That exchange is in Nebraska, where incumbent Sen. Ben Nelson appears to be in awfully rough shape heading into the next election cycle. He’s a Democrat running in a state which’ll vote against President Obama’s re-election by a hefty double-digit margin (even if Palin’s the GOP nominee). And, despite Nelson’s seniority and bonafides, Obama will probably drag the incumbent down with him.

In terms of Democratic horror stories that I feel confident about, that’s really it.

The problem is, even if Democrats aren’t necessarily doomed looking to 2012, they’re still in for a fairly uphill climb in retaining the U.S. Senate. After all, just look at the make-up of 2012 incumbents up for re-election – there are 21 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and 2 Independents (who caucus with the Dems) who will have to defend seats in the next cycle.

For Democrats, that might seem like an incredibly daunting environment, and, while to some extent it is, it’s nothing to completely freak-out about. If they fight hard enough, the Democrats can surely hold on to majority control. What leads me to that conclusion is that, of those 23 U.S. Senators who caucus with the Democratic Party, I believe 8 of them are virtually safe from being ousted from office. On top of that, I project that another 6 are “likely” to win re-election. So, right there you have 14 out of 23 Democratic caucus members that are either absolutely or likely to win. I have another 2 Democrats who I categorize in “Lead D” position. These are incumbents who, while vulnerable, I would feel fairly comfortable in betting on for re-election. So, there’s 16 out of the 23 in good shape.

From there, however, the Democrats will have to fight hard. I’ve already stated my prediction that Ben Nelson will lose re-election, so that would bring the Dems down to a 52-48 majority advantage. There are 5 Democrats who I have listed in “toss-up” territory – that is, their race is a complete jump ball and extraordinarily difficult to predict this far out. If the incumbent Republicans held onto every single seat, Democrats would need to hold 4 of the 5 “toss-up” seats to retain a majority. 3 of the 5 would result in a tie, giving the next vice president (Biden or the Republican) the tie-breaking vote.

The good news for Democrats is that I do see a few vulnerable Republicans in the 2012 cycle, most notably John Ensign and Scott Brown. Democratic pick-ups there would help big time and ensure majority control, with or without winning a majority of those “toss-ups.”

As it stands, I feel comfortable in laying out the following seat allocations…

Democrat – 47

Republican – 47

Toss-up – 6 (5 Ds, 1 R)

A tough, but hardly impossible environment for the U.S. Senate Democrats. If hard-pressed to make a prediction, I would say the Republicans, in all likelihood, do take control.

Safe Democrat (20%+ lead):

California – Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Delaware – Sen. Tom Carper

Maryland – Sen. Ben Cardin

Minnesota – Sen. Amy Klobuchar

New York – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Rhode Island – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Vermont – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I)

Washington – Sen. Maria Cantwell

Likely Democrat (10-20% lead):

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) (presuming Lieberman again runs for re-election as a third-party, does outgoing GOP Gov. Jodi Rell jump in?)

Florida – Sen. Bill Nelson (decent approval ratings, but the GOP bench in Florida is strong.)

Hawaii – Sen. Daniel Akaka (will outgoing GOP Gov. Linda Lingle run?)

New Jersey – Sen. Robert Menendez (with surprisingly low approval, does Lt. Gov. Kim Guadango run?)

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (how will his vote against the tax cuts play here?)

Pennsylvania – Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (popular incumbent, but the GOP bench is decent, and this could be a GOP target in the presidential race.)

Wisconsin – Sen. Herb Kohl (does Russ Feingold’s loss hint at a shift to the right?)

Lean Democrat (5-10% lead):

Michigan – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (with low approval, if she wins it’s because Obama drags her across the finish line in an otherwise-blue state.)

West Virginia – Sen. Joe Manchin (Obama will lose here by double-digits…does he drag Manchin with him?)


Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) (mediocre approval and a very strong GOP bench, but it’ll be close no matter what.)

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester (D) (his vote against the DREAM Act signals his vulnerability in this purple state.)

Nevada – Sen. John Ensign (R) (Democrat Shelley Berkley is strong in a state Obama will likely win, but should Rep. Dean Heller oust Ensign in the primaries, this becomes tough for Dems.)

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad (D) (does he pull a Byron Dorgan and just outright retire?)

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) (Obama might win Ohio, but Brown is way to the left of this state and may underperform Obama.)

Virginia – Sen. Jim Webb (D) (if George Allen wins the GOP nod with ease, this becomes a tough one for Dems.)

Lean Republican (5-10% lead):

Maine – Sen. Olympia Snowe (if she survives the primaries, this becomes Safe R. If not, Likely D.)

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (Brown remains very popular, but the registration make-up ensures this’ll be a close one.)

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson – D->R FLIP (my one and only party change projection here. Nelson posts decent approval, but Obama’s loathed here and looks destined to drag Nelson down with him.)

Likely Republican (10-20% lead):

Arizona – Sen. Jon Kyl (Arizona’s trending more and more red, but Kyl’s hardly as popular as McCain here.)

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (if he survives primary challenge, Safe R. If not, it’s still probably Likely R, unless a really out-there Tea Partier beats him.)

Safe Republican (20%+ lead):

Mississippi – Sen. Roger Wicker

Tennessee – Sen. Bob Corker (watch out for a primary challenge.)

Texas – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (ditto.)

Utah – Sen. Orrin Hatch (ditto.)

Wyoming – Sen. John Barasso


Incredibly Early 2012 Senate Speculation

Well, this is a fairly silly exercise this far out (and a waste of the hour I just spent writing it), but here it is anyway: my pointlessly early handicapping of the 2012 Senate picture.


– Dems are in better shape than it looks (remember, everyone thought we’d pick up seats in 2010 this far out), but still slight underdogs.

– Unlike 2010, GOP has a couple of glaring D pickup opportunities to deal with, but should still break about even to slight GOP advantage.

– None of this is the least bit set yet, and mostly isn’t anything people don’t already know, but at least it’s all in one place now.



Arizona (Jon Kyl, 1995) : In 2006, Kyl beat real estate consultant Jim Pederson by a solid 10 points in a Democratic year. If he runs again, he should win easily, especially given the hard right trend of Arizona politics since 2008.

SSP reported a couple of weeks ago that Kyl has had anemic fundraising in the period leading up to 2011 and that retirement speculation is building. Even if he steps aside, however, this is simply likely to result in an even more depressing Republican winning the seat. The AZ Democratic party really isn’t very well organized, and the D bench here is surprisingly slim for such a populous state. Likely R with Kyl, Lean R without.

Indiana (Richard Lugar, 1977) : Lugar is so popular among the Indiana general electorate, he didn’t even have an opponent in 2006. There’s a chance he could be teabagged. Even if this happened, however, Dems have no bench here: Bayh is MIA, Ellsworth and Hill are damaged from their 2010 losses and Weizenapfel is a severe underdog. Obama also isn’t likely to contest Indiana to the degree that he did in 2008. I’m giving this race to the GOP either way. Likely R

Maine (Olympia Snowe, 1995) : With her bucking of the hard-right ideology that has taken over the ME GOP, Snowe has become a finalist for the dubious “Most likely to be teabagged” award. The question at this point is really whether or not a teabagger candidate will emerge in such a low-interest rural state. Even if Snowe does end up losing her primary, there’s no guarantee that a quality Democrat will run. At this point, it’s Obama’s support in the 2nd CD could also decide a great deal in this race. Like the ME-Gov race this year, it’s unlikely we’ll know all the details until very late in the cycle, and even then the polls will probably be wrong. Solid R with Snowe, Lean R without .

Massachusetts (Scott Brown, 2010) : It’s almost certain that despite Brown’s high approval rating the Dems will try their damndest to get Ted Kennedy’s seat back after Martha Chokely’s complete epic campaign fail in 2009-10. There will be presidential-level turnout here, and Dems will almost certainly run a better campaign than Coakley did, but MA voters are wary of a Democratic monopoly and Brown has been working hard to keep his voting record moderate. An Obama landslide or a Vicki Kennedy candidacy could dislodge him by default, but anyone else is going to be in for a barnburner. Tossup

Mississippi (Roger Wicker, 2007) : Wicker beat the pants off of top-tier recruit Ronnie Musgrove in 2008 by a much larger than expected margin. The shift of the South to the GOP is more or less complete at this point. There’s no reason to expect otherwise in this race. Solid R

Nevada (John Ensign, 2001) : John Ensign is toast, whether it be in the primary or in the general. The expectation is a matchup between 2nd CD Congressman Dean Heller and 1st CD Congresswoman Shelly Berkeley. That would be a reasonable assumption for the 2006 cycle, but in 2012, it’s entirely likely that Heller could be teabagged by none other than still-popular-with-the-fringe-that-votes-in-GOP-primaries Sharron Angle, or a similar nutcase. In a Heller vs. Berkeley matchup in a contested swing state in a Presidential year, it would be a dead heat to slight Berklely advantage. Berkeley vs. Angle, of course, would be a Democratic rout. Either way, this might turn out to be our best pickup opportunity of the cycle. Tossup to Lean D

Tennessee (Bob Corker, 2007) : The bottom has fallen out for Dems in Tennessee since Harold Ford’s narrow 2006 loss to Corker. There has been talk of a Corker primary, but as there are few statewide officials of stature who can pull that off, Corker is probably safe regardless. Likely R .

Texas (Kay Bailey Hutchison, 1993) : Hutchsion’s massively bungled retirement last year will make for an interesting primary whether or not she runs. In the likely event that the eventual GOP nominee here will be slightly to the right of Attila the Hun, a good statewide Dem could make a race of this. Unfortunately, there aren’t many TX Dems with statewide appeal left. Likely R in lieu of a top-tier Dem.

Utah (Orrin Hatch, 1977) : Hatch is dead man walking, having provoked the teabaggers in the most Republican state in the Union. In true Hatch form, he’ll go down slinging bile, but there’s no chance in hell that a Dem can win here even if Jason Chaffetz is the nominee. Solid R  

Wyoming (John Barrasso, 2007) : This is not the race you’re looking for. They can go about their [small] business. Move along. Solid R


California (Dianne Feinstein, 1993) : The rapidly aging Feinstein is a retirement prospect. As the most popular statewide elected official in California, she’d win re-election easily, but even if she quit, it’s unlikely the GOP would find a candidate who could win a primary and a general back to back in a presidential year. Likely D either way.

Delaware (Tom Carper, 2001) : There have been rumors of a Carper retirement, but whether or not he actually does, the GOP’s viable bench here began and ended with the now-retired Mike “Florida Beaches” Castle. Likely D .

Florida (Bill Nelson, 2001) : As today’s front page shows, Nelson is under 50, but still in a pretty commanding position vs. the potential Republican field. He’s also excellent at campaigning, especially in outreach to the elderly. This is likely to be his toughest campaign to date, but I give him the advantage for now. Lean D

Hawaii (Daniel Akaka, 1993) : The octogenerian Akaka is actually the same age as Daniel Inouye, but doesn’t have the glacial seniority or enormous list of legislative accomplishments to show for it. It’s strongly rumored that he’ll retire while he still can. If that’s the case, I recall reading that outgoing GOP Gov. Linda Lingle is considering the race. Despite Hawaii’s overwhelming support of Obama at the Presidential level, this could be a surprisingly close race if Akaka retires and Lingle pulls the trigger. Otherwise, it’ll be a no-contest D hold regardless of what Akaka does.

Lean D open seat with Lingle, Likely D all else

Maryland (Ben Cardin, 2007) : Cardin is a safe, boring, reliable Democrat of the type that can’t lose in a deep blue state in a Presidential year. Likely D , but only because this is his first time. In reality, he’ll win. With Ehrlich’s flameout in 2010, the GOP has no statewide bench here.

Michigan (Debbie Stabenow, 2001) : Stabenow has always stuck me as a bit on the wishy-washy side, and Michigan is hurting so badly right now that every incumbent – especially Democrats – is going to have trouble by default. Obama is going to have a lot more trouble here than he did in 2008, when McCain pretty much handed him the state with a bow on top. Stabenow has a lot of room to improve her numbers, but should be considered endangered until proven otherwise. Unlike most other incumbents who won semi-contested races in 2006, her last re-election was a 57-41 blowout in a good year and she’s never stuck me as a particularly good campaigner, so she’s a lot more at risk of being caught napping. I think Stabenow has a lot more to lose than a lot of Dems this cycle, and it really depends on how well she adapts to the shifting economic/political climate. Lean D for now , but it’s one to keep an eye on.

Minnesota (Amy Klobuchar, 2007) : Klobuchar has managed to be arguably the Senator with the highest approval rating in the entire country, and the GOP’s statewide bench in Minnesota leaves something to be desired at this point. Speculation at this point has swirled around Michele “Kooky” Bachmann making a run, which would turn this contest into the equivalent of FL-Sen in 2006. (Seriously, why wouldn’t she wait 2 years and run against the much less popular Al Franken in an off year?) Even with the MIP on the ballot, Klobuchar is popular enough that she has to be given a significant advantage. Likely D .

Missouri (Claire McCaskill, 2007) : McCaskill is a good campaigner, but could be done in by the demographics of her state, especially given Robin Carnahan’s utter shellacking this year. It probably depends a bit on the Republican nominee, but, as with all MO contests this decade, I have to call this a tossup at best right now. Tossup .  

Montana (Jon Tester, 2007) : Tester won his seat by less than 1% in a Democratic year, and Obama himself nearly won Montana in 2008. It’s all downhill from there, as Democratic numbers in the state have completely collapsed in the wake of Obamacare – especially given newly popular-as-cancer Senator Max Baucus’s role in that debacle. Tester’s hanging out in Baucus’s shadow for his entire term is going to come back to bite him, and might be an insurmountable obstacle. However, it depends on the nominee. If, as expected, the GOP nominee is Denny Rehberg, Tester might still have a shot if he can paint Rehberg as the Abramoff-loving insider that he is. Otherwise, we’re looking at a Republican rout here. (Note: I used to live in Montana. I understand MT voters better than a lot of people here. Please don’t second guess my analysis of this race unless you’ve actually lived in that region.) Tossup to Lean R

Nebraska (Ben Nelson, 2001) : Ben Nelson is the most conservative DINO in the caucus by far, and Nebraska – like most states in that region – had its Democratic high water mark in 2008, when Obama actually won NE-02. Although much has been made of Nelson’s supposed vulnerability here, I’ll believe it when a top-tier candidate declares. Otherwise, he’s committed no outright gaffes and might be surprisingly difficult for the GOP to bump off. Lean D for now.

New Jersey (Bob Menendez, 2007) : The lackluster Menendez has relatively anemic approval ratings, even among Democrats, but still has to be considered a slight favorite. This is New Jersey in a presidential year, after all. Still, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see this race become much closer than it should be simply due to Menendez being the turd that he is. (And yes, I have plenty of justification for that statement, between his poor campaigning skills, his awful tenure as head of the DSCC, his poor-to-nonexistent constituent outreach, and his holding important Democratic bills hostage on more than one occasion because he wanted to tighten the failed embargo on Cuba. Corzine could’ve done a lot better here.) Lean D .

New Mexico (Jeff Bingaman, 1983) : I’ve heard retirement rumors of questionable veracity for Bingaman, but nothing concrete. If he retires, this is probably a Lean D race given the native Hispanic community’s still fairly strong support of Obama. If Bingaman runs again, of course he’ll win easily. Solid D with Bingaman, Lean D without

New York (Kirsten Gillibrand, 2009) : Gillibrand won the special for the rest of Hillary Clinton’s term, just in time to run for a new term of her own. She did fine in 2010, and should have no problems whatsoever in 2012. Solid D

North Dakota (Kent Conrad, 1992) : This one’s a weird situation. After Dorgan retired and Pomeroy lost in 2010, ND has gone from a 3-0 Dem delegation to Conrad being the only holdout. Given his seniority, he’s likely to run again, but a retirement isn’t entirely out of the question. The saving grace here is that with John Hoeven safely elected to Dorgan’s seat and Rick Berg still getting his training wheels the GOP doesn’t really have a top-tier bench to go against Conrad. If he retired, Pomeroy could easily run for the seat and might even win. I doubt he’ll retire, though. Likely D .

Ohio (Sherrod Brown, 2007) : Sherrod Brown has a problem, which is that he has a voting record only slightly to the right of Bernie Sanders, but he represents a state as stupidly conservative as Ohio, where Dems lost catastrophically in 2010. This more than any other Democratic Senate race will likely depend entirely on how well Obama does in Ohio. If Obama wins, Brown will probably be able to survive. If Obama loses Ohio, Brown’s in trouble. He could be in trouble anyway, but I’m at least confident that Brown is a good enough campaigner to make this a close race in either direction. This one is definitely one to watch.   Lean D to Tossup

Pennsylvania (Bob Casey, 2007) : Two years ago, I never would’ve suspected that Casey, who used to have sky-high approval ratings, would be on the “bottom 3” list just after John Ensign and Joe Lieberman, but sadly, this is the case today. As with Brown, Obama’s performance here will probably decide everything, only there’s a lot more Democratic upside in PA than there is in Ohio. Obama will probably win PA absent a Reagan-style landslide, and turnout in Philly, Pittsburgh, and Scranton should be good enough to get Casey re-elected if he shores up the base. It will be closer than it should be, though. Lean D

Rhode Island : The surprisingly robust John Robiatalle might run against Whitehouse, but Whitehouse has the obvious advantage as the incumbent in a solidly Democratic state. Of the 6 seats Dems picked up in 2006, this is probably the one of least concern. Likely D .

Virginia (Jim Webb, 2007) : Webb beat Senator Macaca by less than 1% in 2006, When and whether Webb runs against Allen again in 2012 is still a subject of debate – much has been made of his dislike of his job and of fundraising. This gives Allen the mojo going into the contest.

Allen’s biggest danger right now is getting teabagged. However, this is Virginia, and it’s likely that there will be multiple teabaggers running. If Allen survives the primary, he has to be considered a slight favorite. However, Democratic organization in Virginia here may determine the outcome of this race AND the Presidential race.

If Brian Moran can’t keep the party together and enough Federal employees are disgruntled by their pointless wage freeze, it might tip the scales just enough to negate any advantage Dems had here in 2008. Tossup

Washington (Maria Cantwell, 2001) : Cantwell is more popular than Patty Murray, will be running in an improved climate in a state with a comparatively good economy, and the WA GOP is really running out of viable statewide candidates at this point. Likely D

West Virginia (Joe Manchin, 2010) : As with Gillibrand, Manchin has to do it all over again next cycle. Thanks to the fact that none of the state’s limited pool of top-tier GOP talent wants to run against him, it’s likely that he’ll succeed, even in spite of WV’s obvious preference for the GOP. Lean D .

Wisconsin (Herb Kohl, 1989) : Septugenarian Kohl has been the subject of retirement rumors for some time, and the recently defeated Russ Feingold has been subject to an equal amount of comeback speculation should he decide to do so. Kohl is middle of the road enough that he should have no problems should he run again; a Feingold do-over would really depend on who the GOP found to run against him. Fortunately, Paul Ryan is probably going to be too busy destroying the budget in the House to run for Senate, and Tommy Thompson has bungled coming out of retirement enough times that he’s probably not viable. Any other GOP candidate is probably the underdog in a presidential year. Likely D with Kohl, Lean D without .  


Connecticut (Joe Lieberman, 1989): The one consensus going into this cycle is that Holy Joe is royally hosed by the uberpartisan environment that, ironically, he helped create by campaigning for McCain. Linda McMahon is all but running, and if she doesn’t, some other Republican will. He is roundly despised by Connecticut Democrats, and independents don’t much care for him, either. The only danger is that there’s a bloody primary on the Democratic side that damages the eventual nominee. Then Lieberman might pick up just enough support to throw the election to McMahon. In any case, the one outcome we can be sure of this far out is that the odds of Joe Lieberman winning a fourth term in the Senate are about as likely as my cat discovering a cure for cancer. Tossup to Lean D

Vermont: (Bernie Sanders, 2007): Sanders is tremendously popular in Vermont and has this seat for as long as he wants it. Solid I  

FL-Sen: Nelson Leads All, Except Jeb

Public Policy Polling (12/17-20, Florida voters):

Bill Nelson (D-inc): 47

George LeMieux (R): 36

Bill Nelson (D-inc): 44

Jeb Bush (R): 49

Bill Nelson (D-inc): 44

Mike Haridopolos (R): 32

Bill Nelson (D-inc): 46

Adam Hasner (R): 30

Bill Nelson (D-inc): 44

Connie Mack IV (R): 36

(MoE: ±3%)

This poll’s been out there for a little while now, but with SSP Headline News enjoying an extended vacation from the blogosphere, I called the boys down at SSP Reclamation Services & Towing to drag this fugging thing out of the swamp before it becomes lost to time.

Bill Nelson, going for his third term in 2012, doesn’t appear to be in an especially sound position, sitting in the mid-40s against all comers and sporting a seemingly pedestrian approval rating of 36-33. However, as Tom Jensen explains, the math is a little bit kinder to Nelson than first meets the eye:

Nelson’s approval numbers don’t appear on the surface to be that good, with 36% of voters approving of him and 33% disapproving with a pretty remarkable 31% holding no opinion even after nearly 16 years in statewide office. There are some unusual quirks in his numbers though that amount to him actually being stronger than his topline numbers might suggest. Democrats are pretty tepid toward him, with only 45% approving to 19% who disapprove. Usually we see folks closer to the 70% approval mark within their own parties. But he has an unusual level of popularity with Republicans- 23% might not sound like a lot of crossover support but many Democrats this year are finding themselves with single digit approval with Republicans. And Nelson’s on positive ground with independents as well at 42/36, again somewhat unusual in a year where those voters were not particularly friendly to Democrats.

As it is right now, Jeb Bush would be the GOP’s strongest recruit, but it seems pretty clear that a Jeb candidacy is simply not going to happen. We’re left with a platter of second-tier choices: outgoing Sen. George LeMieux, state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, and Rep. Connie Mack IV. Haridopolos is the only one of the above who is (more or less) actually in the race, but Hasner seems a likely candidate, and Mack and LeMieux are actively weighing the race, as well. Will a clear leader emerge from this crop?

Mississippi Party Switchers

It looks like we have a few more party defections to report.  A state senator and state representative have jumped to the Repuglicans.  My guess is that Senator Hyde-Smith is going to throw her hat into the open Ag Commissioner seat in the 2011 races.  The Democrats now have a razor thin majority in the state senate; however, the Senate is controlled by Republican Lt. Governor (and 2011 Gov. candidate) Phil Bryant.  The House still has a Democratic majority for the time being.  Check out the article below.


Redistricting Michigan: What can the GOP do? (Part 1)

As we all know, the GOP did very well in a lot of state-level races around the country, in addition to their big gains in the House.  This was especially true in Michigan, where the Michigan House of Representatives flipped from D to R after a 20 seat Democratic loss, and the Republicans gained seats in the Michigan Senate, going from a 22-16 majority to a 26-12 supermajority.  Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder won convincingly.  And over on the Michigan Supreme Court, two GOP-backed candidates (one incumbent justice, one challenger to an incumbent recently appointed by outgoing Gov. Jennifer Granholm) won their races as well, turning a narrow 4-3 “Democratic” majority into a 4-3 “Republican” majority.  (The races and the court are nominally non-partisan…but everyone knows.)

There has been much buzz about exactly what this complete GOP control of the redistricting process means for the reapportionment process.  Given the fact that Michigan is home, I’ve been among those wondering just that.  This is my attempt at a prediction (or two).  As an added bonus, it is my first diary ever here at SSP!

First, there’s the current map:

2001 Apportionment

This is the 2001 apportionment plan based on the 2000 census.  Like the forthcoming map, it was drawn when the state government was largely under Republican control (Legislature and Governor certainly were…I’m not sure about the MI Supreme Court at the time).  As such, the map as it stands is already a GOP gerrymander, though it doesn’t look as obvious as, say, some of the districts in Pennsylvania ::cough::PA-12::cough::.  This map flipped a 9-7 D-R delegation to 9-6 R-D.  As with the 2000 census, Michigan loses one seat in 2010, down to 14 overall.

After the 2010 elections, we’re back from an 8-7 D-R map (Democrats flipped two districts in 2008) to a 9-6 R-D map.  Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11 will be represented by Republicans in the coming Congress; Districts 5, 9, 12, 13, 14, and 15 will be represented by Democrats.  The only real change from 2000 is that District 1 is now in Republican hands and District 9 is in Democratic hands.  As many of you know, the 9th (my district!) was drawn as a Republican district, but has trended away from the GOP and is now held by Democrat Gary Peters.  District 1 was Bart Stupak’s district, which fell in the wave this year after he retired.

Obviously, if the Republicans want to try to protect all their incumbents, new and old, they will have to put two Democrats together to account for the loss of one seat.  Much of the discussion I’ve seen has revolved around the idea that the Republicans are likely to match Gary Peters in the 9th and Sandy Levin in the 12th and either let them fight it out or encourage/force Levin into retirement.

I decided to explore the idea of such a match up to see exactly how it would impact redistricting throughout the rest of the state.  Based on copious hours of work on the maps you’ll see below, a Peters-Levin match-up is eminently doable, but it will likely wreak havoc throughout the rest of the state for Republican incumbents.  Although this seemed the most likely match-up to me, I’m starting to think that the GOP may instead try to pair John Dingell (MI-15) and John Conyers (MI-14), leaving Levin and Peters alone.  I plan to explore that match-up another time.

Before we get to the maps, here are the principles I used in drawing them:

1.  Wherever possible try to keep districts as compact as possible and without breaking county or municipal/township lines.  This was not as high a priority as it otherwise might have been, as the Supreme Court is, IMO, likely to be a bit flexible with these requirements which are embodied in state law.

2.  Keep each Republican incumbent in a single district, without matching them up with another Republican or forcing them to move.  (While they obviously don’t have to live in the district, it always helps from a PR standpoint…)

3.  Try to shore up shakier Republican districts.

4.  Maintain two minority-majority districts based in Detroit (currently the 13th and 14th).

I used Dave’s App without using the “estimate new population” check box, as it had projected the state’s population to increase, rather than go down as it did.  So, the current population figure on the app is actually closer to what it will be than the estimate.  Obviously the population will change within the voting blocks, so take these maps with a grain of salt.

My first attempt at a Peters-Levin mash looked overall as follows:

Peters Levin Mash 1 Overview

Without the partisan numbers, I had to kind of eyeball the districts based on county-level returns and my own knowledge of the state.  I figured the 2008 Obama numbers were the high mark in most counties since McCain basically gave up the state a month before the election.

Here is the Lower Peninsula, and then a close up of the southern Lower Peninsula:

Peters Levin Mash 1 LP

Peters Levin Mash 1 Southern Lower

The first mash-up district I built more closely resembles Peters’ current 9th, but swoops south to take in Ferndale and Royal Oak (Levin’s home) in the southeast corner of Oakland County.  The district surrenders its northern reaches (making Mike Rogers my Congressman…again) and West Bloomfield, becoming more compact, but probably more Democratic than it is currently.  The district remains entirely within Oakland County.

Peters Levin Mash 1 SE Mich

As the maps show, though, this configuration likely causes chaos elsewhere.  What was much of Sandy Levin’s 12th in southern Macomb (Democratic) has to go somewhere, and Candice Miller is unlikely to want all of it.  So, the 13th, which will be held by incoming freshman Hansen Clarke, shifts a bit north from Wayne County.  The district stays majority African American, but just barely.  This pulls Candice Miller’s 10th south a bit, which costs her much of the thumb area.  John Conyers’ district then shifts east a bit, but remains firmly African American majority.  John Dingell’s district (now the 15th, here renumbered the 14th) is then pulled north out of swingy Monroe County and into friendlier territory in Wayne and Washtenaw Counties.  Finally, Thad McCotter (MI-11) suffers as he picks up more Dem-friendly West Bloomfield in a mild attempt to keep his district compact.

Outside SE Michigan, things get even more interesting.  I’ve pretty much concluded that Crazy Tim…I mean, Tim Walberg (MI-07) is stuck with a swing district unless the GOP folks in Lansing throw Mike Rogers (MI-08) under the bus and give Walberg all of heavily Republican Livingston County…which is where Rogers is from.  So not happening.  In this map, Walberg’s district shifts east, giving up more Dem-friendly Calhoun County (Battle Creek) and swingy Eaton County for swingy Monroe County and a slice of Livingston County.  Calhoun County still has to go somewhere, and the only district really in the area is Fred Upton’s 6th.  I doubt Upton will let this happen, as he already has heavily-Democratic Kalamazoo to contend with.

Likewise, someone needs to pick up Democratic Lansing and Walberg certainly won’t want it.  Rogers seemed a likely contender at first (even though he wouldn’t want it either), but in the end his 8th District ended up (hideously, I must say) going east into the thumb area to pick up Candice Miller’s losses.  (I tried at least 3 configurations to try to stretch Rogers’ district west and Dale Kildee’s 5th or Dave Camp’s 4th east into the thumb…I just couldn’t get anything that looked workable though.)  This seemed like the best I could get, as ugly as it is.  So, in the end the lucky winner of Lansing was Republican Dave Camp (MI-04).  Camp’s district now occupies much of the farm country heartland of the state and includes his home in Midland, in an attempt to counterbalance Lansing.  Dale Kildee’s 5th District takes in the Democratic areas in Flint, Saginaw, and Bay County, then stretches north to take in a few rural areas; I’d guess it stays firmly Democratic, though.

Finally, in the west and north, the 1st District which will be held by Republican Rep.-elect Dan Benishek shifts west and takes in Traverse City, probably shoring up the district for him.  Republican Rep.-elect Justin Amash’s 3rd District gets a bold new look, but probably stays Republican, splitting urban Grand Rapids with the neighboring and still heavily Republican 2nd.  (I realized after I finished everything that Amash may have to pick up and move a few miles after all, as I think I accidentally put him in the new 2nd with fellow Republican freshman Bill Huizenga.  Oops.)  The new 2nd, instead of stretching up the Lake Michigan coast, consolidates ruby red Ottawa County with southern Kent County (Grand Rapids) and areas further south.

Given the chaos that such a map could cause, I knew that it was unlikely that the Republicans in Lansing would try this.  Even if they managed to tweak things (say, finding a way to stretch the 4th or 5th into the thumb instead of the 8th), having a Peters-Levin mash-up with a 9th District as I’ve constructed it here could cause too much of a headache to be worth the trouble.  The real problem seemed to be with the shift in the districts caused by the leftover Democratic-leaning territory in southern Macomb, which is currently in Sandy Levin’s district.

I think the bottom line is that the current map is already close to an effective Republican gerrymander as you can get.  There are islands of Democratic strength, especially in SE Michigan and sprinkled across the rest of the state that make it hard to make the Republican incumbents much stronger without hurting a fellow Republican.  Without threading the needle precisely, the whole house of cards could end up collapsing in a Dem-friendly year, wave or no.

My next set of maps for Part 2 of this diary (to be posted within the next couple days) looks at a Peters-Levin match up in a district that looks more like Levin’s current 12th, rather than like Peters’ current 9th.  The results were a little more encouraging for the GOP, but still caused problems that make me think they won’t go for that either.  I’ll leave you all with that as food for thought until next time.

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